Melissa Simpson

Melissa Simpson, Senior Program Manager, Center for Benefits Access, National Council on Aging

By Melissa Simpson, Senior Program Manager, Center for Benefits Access, National Council on Aging

Generally, we like choices. But, when it comes to Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plans, the many choices and details can become overwhelming. Don’t let the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period, Oct. 15- Dec. 7, pass by without looking at all your choices!

Not sure you want to spend the time comparing when you’re happy with your current plan and can afford the increases? Remember, plans can change their costs, coverage, and networks annually and there might be a better deal out there. Or there might not be a better deal, but how will you know if you don’t look? So, take the steps detailed below to review your choices.

The first step is to compare your current plan in 2016 with its coverage in 2017. Find the thick packet your plan mails in late September called the Annual Notice of Change and Evidence of Coverage (ANOC/EOC) and open it up. With your ANOC/EOC in-hand, or online, answer these questions:

  1. Are my drugs are still on the drug list (also known as a formulary)?
  2. Are my drugs on a different tier with different cost-sharing?
  3. Do any of my drugs have new restrictions, like approval from the plan before getting my medicine?
  4. Can I use the same pharmacies? Are there changes to the cost of using this pharmacy?

Once you’ve compared your plan in 2016 with 2017 coverage, then it’s time for step two which is to compare your plan with the others available. It’s pretty tough to do this based on the glossy mailers plans send this time of year. And, depending on where you live, you may have as many as 20 Part D drug plans and 25 Medicare Advantage plans to work with. How can you possibly compare all this? The best advice is to use the Medicare Plan Finder at, work with your local insurance agent or broker, or ask for unbiased help from a local SHIP counselor through

And, what if your changing plans doesn’t really make your copayments and medications affordable? Be sure to check these resources for help:

Use to screen for more than 2,500 public benefit programs

Check your eligibility for Extra Help and Medicare Savings Programs to help with Medicare costs with your local SHIP or county social services office

Visit to find out if your state has a State Prescription Assistance Program (SPAP), the drug manufacturer offers a copayment assistance program, or if a foundation might help with some of the cost

Remember, it’s up to you to review your choices and find the best fit! If you’d like to learn more about Medicare, visit the website to learn more and take our MedicareQuickCheck for help with Medicare eligibility and enrollment guidance.